So the game of football is gigantically big. But that doesn’t automatically mean it will always be that big, nor that it couldn’t be bigger. Moreover, it is guaranteed that there will always be attempts to improve it. FIFA officials are also constantly working on this. Everyone will also have ideas for themselves that they are convinced will be effective. Here are a number of comprehensible suggestions put down on paper.
The very simple goals are: To make football more exciting, more attractive and fairer, and thus to maintain, increase the following, which is to take place via the (re)acquisition of neutral spectators. This sounds so clumsy that one would nod, but this would only be the benevolent nod that one would grant to a harmless lunatic and tell him on the shoulder; “Yes, yes, you’re right”, so that he finally gives it a rest, because inwardly one would think: “Keep on spinning.”
It sounds good, no question about it. Only the convictions persist: everything has already been said about that. Every proposal has been discussed, every idea has been considered, most of them have been discarded, the current rule discussions may have a hand or a foot, but not both, as one is absolutely convinced, since one has in fact made up one’s own ready-made thoughts about the biggest annoyances and the things that really ought to be changed/improved, but which no one comes up with and when they do they come up with the wrong answers. Besides, the emperor himself, Franz Beckenbauer, once said: “Let’s leave football as it is.
In other words, it’s not worth reading on. The fact that one is wrong in this respect requires a very careful build-up and a little patience. The resistance is palpable, as recognised in several discussions. Even if Platini, Beckenbauer, Pelé and Cruyff had the text in their hands, they could not help but resist it. They could not be presented with something they had not considered, perhaps even overlooked. In this respect, a few simple preliminary considerations are made, which in no way go in the direction of agitation. A relaxed reflection on a few interesting questions that have perhaps rarely if ever arisen in this form. Drawing conclusions from this is, for the time being, entirely up to you.
Insofar as one deals with the point “more exciting”, one may calmly ask oneself when and through what one feels tension. If one deals with the point “more attractive”, one may of course ask what could actually be attractive about the game, what one feels in this way and when an increase in it would have occurred. The simple question of whether this increases the motivation to watch a game must of course not be missed. Perhaps attractiveness is not a criterion at all in football? People want fights and fights, fights and passion, but nothing beautiful? On the question of justice, what is meant here is in particular a superordinate justice and not one that is to be raised in specific situations. As mystical as this sounds, it is actually quite simple.
It is repeatedly stated that only the application of the existing rules is demanded, as well as a general rethinking. The simple logic behind it is this: The referee has a discretionary power and a specific interpretation of the rules, which yields different, but in each case accepted, unchallenged results from case to case. In the vast majority of cases, both the discretion and the interpretation of the rules lead to decisions that are unfavourable to the attackers. This is generally accepted without lamentation, since each individual case does not cause a sensation. However, the tendency of the decisions is clear and even demonstrable, as one can readily convince oneself. The rethinking therefore refers to a rethinking in favour of the attackers. More protection for them, more goal actions, more goals, more excitement.
A very central assertion, which should also be recalled repeatedly, is: There are two types of spectators, at every single match. One is the true fan of a team, the other is the neutral spectator. The true fan may put up with all sorts of grievances. He watches the game (of his team) anyway and is commonly called “capable of suffering”. He endures a boring 0:0, in which his team rarely gets forward but doesn’t allow much either, because he considers the one point in this difficult game a success. He is delighted with a tired, boring 1:0, he doesn’t really care how it came about. One moment makes up for it. The meeting with like-minded people may also serve as an occasion, which is omitted for neutral spectators.
The great potential that can be (re)won is the neutral spectator. They must be offered attractions, entertainment and excitement. There may already be the opinion that you can only watch a game as a fan anyway. However, that is exactly where we should start. It may indeed be the case that 90% of spectators are currently sitting in front of the screen (or in the stadium) out of a fan passion. It’s just that this number could be reduced to perhaps far below 50%. But not because there are fewer fans and not because fewer people are watching. But simply because there are more neutral spectators who watch a game out of pure football enthusiasm. It may sound a long way to get there, but it’s not really, as long as you engage in the simple thoughts. This one is already one of them.
1) on the subject of excitement
a. In what way is tension a criterion?
Perhaps one doesn’t have to go too far to make it an important criterion. But it is worth asking yourself when you feel it, when you last felt it. When is it in a feature film, when is it in a football match? When did you last get out of your seat? As much as I would like to pursue philosophical questions further, which could begin argumentatively in ancient Rome with the demand “panem et circenses”, give the people bread and games and they will be satisfied, there is not the space for that here.
Just this much more: a brief reflection on the content of life in general leads one to think about one’s own time management. For most people, there is a fair amount that is filled with obligations. Often they are entered into voluntarily to a certain extent and then proudly completed, but often enough it is a duty to earn one’s daily bread, and often it is connected with the well-being of the family. A huge part is certainly devoted to amorous things. One has a partner – and is happy or has relationship problems – or one is looking for one. One is in love right now, sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy. People are preoccupied with this, even if it often remains hidden from the outside world.
At some point, however, one comes to leisure time and how to spend it. What do you do with your well-deserved but scarce free time? Yes, you do something interesting, entertaining, exciting, something that is fun. This could include watching a football match, studying the standings, analysing the previous match day and the next one. You might read the sports (football) section of the daily newspaper or buy a specialist magazine and browse through it, and in the evening you watch a sports programme that does the same: gets you in the mood for the next match day or reviews the previous one. A considerable part of the fan’s time should consist of watching the games. Marginal consideration here: It could be feared that one day the daily preoccupation with the subject of football, which fuels anticipation, will diminish if the joy of match day is not properly nourished.
Subsequently, let’s assume that almost every fan who watches or wants to watch a match would have among the top three answers, if not unanimously number 1, to the question why they do so: “Because it’s exciting.” So there are plenty of reasons to make sure it gets that way (for critics of the theses: stays that way). Those who give this answer are, after all, the ones who really look. If you were to ask somewhere else, you would surely get the answer: “Football? I don’t watch it. It’s boring.” “Would you watch if it was exciting?” Well, you might think about that yourself.
b. What are suspense criteria, what are suspense moments?
The decisive, tension-triggering criterion is this: uncertainty about the outcome. This can apply to the individual scene, the individual match, but also to an entire tournament. In a scene it would be the tense question: “Let’s see if this attack will be a goal”. In a game, it is the thought: “How will it end?” and in a tournament, the question asked daily, but always answered differently due to the situation changing with every game, every match day, can be: “Who will win the tournament?” or “Who will be relegated?” or even “Who will reach the Champions League?” and as the last representative question, “Where will my club end up?”
A very specific question aimed at the point of “moments of suspense”, which the reader may submit to himself, is: “Which football match do you remember?” Short pause for thought ———
Here are a few examples that might spring to mind: One is certainly the match of the last century, Germany-Italy, World Cup Mexico 1970, that legendary 3:4 after extra time, in which not only many goals were scored but they were almost equally distributed over the match, with alternating leads. The other, not automatically ranked at the top, is perhaps the match between the Czech Republic and Turkey at Euro 2008, in which Turkey turned around a 0:2 deficit after more than 70 minutes to win 3:2. This match was later voted into the top ten of the greatest matches at World and European Championships.
The German readers mentioned above will certainly remember some of Werder Bremen’s famous European Cup battles, most notably the 5:3 against RSC Anderlecht, which came after a 0:3 deficit that still lasted after 66 minutes. In terms of Bundesliga matches, I would like to mention in particular the match of the 2007/2008 season, VfB Stuttgart – Werder Bremen, which resulted in a dramatic but peaceful 4:4 draw.
If you look for the similarities between these games and are a little honest with yourself, you will be able to confirm this: As long as there are many goals for both teams, the potential for the match to become memorable is high. An important point is that there should be (surprising) twists and turns. This is certainly indisputable. Another common feature, by the way, is one that is objected to: the events are extremely rare. One has to go far back in memory, hardly finding any in the recent past. Is that desirable?
So the question that may be raised in consequence is: “Does the frequency of these events seem high? Going further, “Should one fear rapid saturation there?” This is really, as privately conducted discussions revealed, almost the explosive question: could football become boring very quickly, provided there were (considerably) more goals? As good as this consideration is: here are some assertions that cast considerable doubt on it: The frequency of matches worth remembering is so low that an increase there would be far from reaching the saturation point. Second assertion: As long as it is not tried out, generally valid statements become difficult to verify. The third assertion: FIFA’s main officials are looking for easy ways to increase the excitement by scoring more goals. The last remark: If the number of goals is too high, the rules could be tightened or changed so that fewer goals are scored. First of all, it remains the case that it would be very difficult for critics to seriously doubt the statement “more goals – more excitement”.
As much as the view that excitement is an important criterion would be confirmed, resistance to it of a different kind could nevertheless set in. Namely, whether the level of excitement is directly related to the number of goals. A real fan (mentioned above about the division into neutral spectators and real fans) could say: “It was exciting the whole time it was 0:0. And when my team scored the 1:0, the explosion was so powerful that it could not be compared to anything else. More goals would bring boredom. You can’t be so exuberant all the time.” This is a good consideration. The counter-evidence can only be provided by the above consideration of “which game had memory value?” or by practice in the envisaged improved future. The conservative argument “we leave everything as it is, then the enthusiasm will remain as it is” can only be dealt with insofar as concerns are addressed, possible changes in the perception of a football match, about which it is best to keep asking oneself: did I have a good time? Was it exciting? Was it fun? Will I watch again? Above all, it concerns people who see themselves as followers of this sport and whose own team is not on the pitch at the moment: Do you really enjoy watching this game for the whole 90 minutes?
c. The individual scene
As a (neutral) spectator, you would certainly feel well entertained in a single scene if you had the feeling that it would result in a goal situation, if possible perhaps a goal. If someone in midfield was leading the ball, then you would have to be curious to see if he could find a free teammate, on the outside, who could play around his opponent, put in a cross and a header could come on goal. It could also be that you hope for a dribble through the centre with a surprise pass to the top that puts a striker in shooting position. You could also think about the possibility of getting into shooting position from 30 yards and vaulting the net with a tremendous long-range shot. The last consideration, perhaps, is that if all the men now move up, with the understandable intention of fulfilling the goal of the game, to score a goal, thereby exposing one’s own defence, not getting back in time after losing the ball, and even the opponent scoring a goal by counterattack.
The question may be allowed: Do they really think about it? Think about it briefly —.
The answer is: No, according to the almost certain observation. Question: “Do you think this attack will lead to a goal?” “No, I don’t think so.” What other answer could one give? Surely one would be naïve if, with a chance of 1/100 at most, one were to fall for the idea that it could occur now? “Yes, I believe it.” 10 seconds later the answer: “Aha, you saw it. I guess it was nothing, you dreamer.” One would be laughed at. As a little “proof”: Just watch when the camera is pointed at the VIP stand during a match. The faces are far more bored than those at a Bundestag debate. No one feels any tension. He would be a fool if he did. Because: the next attack will not be a goal. If one should be mistaken: so be it. But I was not tense. Aaagh.
The individual scene is not exciting. There are climaxes, no question about that. But it’s not really worth waiting for them. They come too seldom to keep you waiting for them. As I said, the real fan is left out. The question is addressed to a neutral person, perhaps a newcomer, who is offered the opportunity to watch a football match. After the first attempt, he drops out. Once and never again.
There is even the claim that one doesn’t actually watch any more. One does not expect anything. Nothing can actually happen. It goes on like that for 60 minutes. Then a goal. Oh, something happened. Well, it must have been by chance. You don’t need to watch a single scene in a live match. A summary might work, because the highlights come one after the other. But a whole game in every scene? That’s difficult. Almost everyone. The reason: there is no goal now. There is, apart from tiny, small, possible errors, the conviction: The outcome of a scene appears certain (no goal) and not, as required for suspense, uncertain.
d. The individual game
The individual game derives its tension from the uncertainty about the outcome of the game in the sense of “who will win?” or “will it remain a draw?”. This kind of tension is certainly present as long as the score is 0:0. It’s just that you can sense from the most typical of all football results that it doesn’t immediately cry out for change. Nothing has happened so far. Why should it now of all times? Is that why you watch it? Or are you just as entertained if you turn on the teletext and do a crossword puzzle? Maybe better, because of the crossword puzzle? The problem, by the way, is not so much that it’s uncertain when it’s 0-0, but actually boring, but that when it’s 1-0, it’s decided. Before the first goal, you are supposed to be spellbound as to who will score the first goal, but when it has fallen, you know who has won? That doesn’t sound like great entertainment.
A game is supposed to derive its excitement from the uncertainty about the outcome. Here, too, this is not really the case. You don’t know the winner, but you almost don’t want to know. “It’s a great game today, Bayern against Werder.” “Yes, good, great, exciting. Tell me later how it turned out.” That would actually be enough for entertainment value. Watch it? Not worth it.
e. An entire tournament
In terms of a tournament, you have the tension of changing conditions with every matchday. Will Bayern become champions after all? Will Hertha really be relegated? Can Bochum save themselves? Will VfB Stuttgart make it into the Champions League? At a major tournament, a European Championship or World Cup, there are of course plenty of exciting questions every day. In the group phase: Will Spain be knocked out after their opening defeat? Will Ghana advance? What’s going on with France? Will they be knocked out? And of course you have your own team, usually the one of your own origin, which you compare and whose chances you deal with, inevitably with the possible future opponents. From the knockout games onwards, it is exciting in the sense that in each game one team gets to really cheer, but the other has to pack its bags.
However, the question here would also be whether the excitement would not be higher if there were more exciting games, more thrilling scenes, more goals. Changes are always the result of finished results. But the way the results come about should also remain exciting, shouldn’t it?
2) On the subject of attractiveness
What do you mean by this demand for increased attractiveness? Well, the point is that there can be beautiful scenes, scenes that demand admiration and enthusiasm without being measurable. A skilful reception of the ball, a great pass, a successful dribble, a hacking trick, a precise shot, an equally successful save. It doesn’t show, but you like to see it. The fact that the fan again has his own perspective is worth mentioning here, but it doesn’t change much: if the opponent manages something great, he may be grumpy, but perhaps appreciative nonetheless. Moreover, one aim is to make the neutral spectators the majority, so that the individual fan is the minority, apart from the fact that it is only that of the team concerned. The one of the own team clicks his tongue, perhaps even too often, because he approves of scenes that a neutral does not perceive.
Is it possible to see such scenes today? The answer is: far too rarely. The differences in performance are becoming more and more blurred. The players who are nevertheless better have too few opportunities to play out their superiority, to make their advantage recognisable. It’s not just that it automatically means that the coach has to stop these beautiful actions – keyword: media responsibility, which of course can highlight what they want, but they put success above everything else — because the terse comment is: “Beautiful, but ineffective.” It’s all about success. Is it really?
Don’t they forget that they have an obligation to the audience to offer an attraction comparable to the circus, where there are no winners, but which is still visited? Is this not the way to keep spectators, to make them watch?
The assertion stands here: Modern football leaves no room for the better footballers in any respect. The coach has to stop it, the media talk about “beautiful play” that neglects effectiveness and is even ridiculed, and the defenders don’t let anyone past. This affects everyone: you practically don’t get to see a successful dribble any more. But consider that Maradonna’s goal against England at the 1986 World Cup was the goal of the century. He played around half the team and finished. It’s spectacular, attractive, you want to see it. But it doesn’t happen. The defenders are made out to be naive for letting a striker pass and not fouling him. “In that scene I had to stop him. I was happy to pick up the yellow card. But I acted in the spirit of the team, of the whole country.” If he doesn’t, he gets sent off.
So, little by little, all the pretty, nice to look at, and even if ineffective, still worth seeing scenes are banned from the game. Is it supposed to be like this? How long will it be before they say, “It’s football today. And nobody goes.”
What should there be to see? No more exciting scenes. No exciting game progressions, no changing leads, no spectacular actions, no assertive opportunities for the better players. Actually, everything is just a one-size-fits-all mash that lives on its myth. A single game today has nothing to offer.
3) On the subject of justice
There are plenty of contributions. Everyone has one to offer. At least. It’s almost as if you could say that you only really watch football anymore because you can get so deliciously worked up about the permanent injustices. The realisation is found intuitively and inarticulately: The game has nothing to offer. Fortunately, there are referees. So we pounce on them and their blunders.
As soon as one discusses a football match in private — which is absolutely an exception, since the purely substantive scenes, the tension, the beautiful actions, as mentioned above, have already fallen away anyway — the focus is relatively quickly on the injustices.
4) Are there any other criteria?
a. Beauty and aesthetics
c. successful actions